This is the time of year we reflect on being thankful, in fact I am writing this on Thanksgiving day. I reflect often that I am thankful for a lot. Even with a spinal cord injury the number of things I can do is more than the number of thing I can't do. I live independently and find ways around obstacles. Fortunately there are laws that try to reduce the obstacles we have to confront.
Every once in a while I come across AB (Able Bodied) people of good intention who have a Utopian idea that people with deficits should be treated “just like everyone else.” It would be nice to live in a world were my deficits did not matter and I could be treated “just like everyone else.” But the reality is I am not just like everyone else, and thinking that we'll be treated like we are avoids the hard questions that we need to ask of each other, and the decisions those questions compel.
For example, last month there started an interesting situation playing out in New York, which you can read about here. The city is being sued for having taxis that aren't accessible. Mayor Bloomberg thinks a different solution could work... Now I could say so many things about so many aspects of that particular situation but I am trying to stay thankful, thankful, thankful...
So let me get back to why is it that people have an idea that people with severe deficits are going to be treated “just like everyone else?” We with less severe deficits have to struggle to get from point A to point B, and work through the push back when trying to do it in the same manner others hire conveyances. In the Chicago suburbs, I have called for a cab and know for a fact the driver just went by me when he saw I was in a wheelchair rather than stop and get my chair in the trunk. (The dispatcher gave me the cab number when I called and I watched the cab with that number go by). And it has not happened just once to me, but multiple times.
So if cabs that are accessible to me won't stop for whatever reason, what are the chances that an accessible cab that could pick up AB's will even stop to pick up someone in a power chair? We need more than accessible equipment and place we can go. We need to teach people that there just might be something more important than making their own lives as convenient as possible. I doubt that many people can even see that as a problem, let alone be willing to work towards a solution.
I am truly thankful for all I can do. I would be even more thankful if people would look for ways to remove barriers. People who say that people with deficits should be treated “just like everyone else” have a great goal. But they are not removing barriers, they are keeping barriers in place if not erecting new barriers.